Although it's a provincial capital and the historic centre of production of one of the world's most valuable materials, KIMBERLEY itself is neither large nor glamorous. During the diamond rush, it was the fastest-growing city in the southern hemisphere and Cecil Rhodes held in his grip not only the fabulously wealthy diamond industry, but the heart and mind of the British Empire – yet status and sophistication have been draining from Kimberley ever since. Even the all-controlling De Beers Group (sometimes called the "grandfather" of Kimberley for the number of people it has directly and indirectly employed) closed its Kimberley mines in 2005 as part of a process to streamline the company, and the city lives in the chilly shadow of the day when the diamonds dry up altogether.
However, Kimberley's legacy gives it an historic flavour few other cities in South Africa can match. It's worth spending a few hours seeking out some of the many old buildings, not forgetting to peer into the depths of the Big Hole, the remarkable, hand-dug chasm taking up almost as much land area as the city's central business district (CBD).